29 June 2012

For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook you may have seen my status about how today was not such a good day for me.

I wish I knew how to share everything that is bothering me without it sounding like complaining.
However, I do not know how to go about doing so.
So here goes a quick overview of what has made this day not so great.

First off, I could hardly sleep last night.
I got all of about 2 or 3 hours tops all night long.
I had a lot on my mind and just could not manage to get myself to sleep.
It was a long night and an extremely early morning.
My insomnia definitely kicked in, as well as an overactive mind.
If I could just shut my mind off for a few hours every night I might actually get some sleep.

Then there was the fact that all of the divorce stuff is still managing to mess up my life.
My 'father' did not file taxes the way he was supposed to so now my school bill is sitting unpaid because he has all the tax money and will not give my mom her share.
I am not sure exactly what the whole situation is since i'm not there and no one tells me anything anymore, but I do know that it is causing a lot of tension between my mom & I about financial things concerning my schooling.
Staying here at ONU is dependent on the bill being paid.
However, since my 'father' refuses to do what he said he would, I now am  on the edge of possibly not being able to stay for the fall and just the thought is driving me crazy.
I just hate that I am still stuck under the umbrella of this divorce.
My life is still being controlled by it and by the choices that my parents and the judges make.
Everything is hanging by a string and I cannot do anything about it.

Then there is the fact that I was talking to my mom about traveling plans for vacation/family reunion this next weekend and she informed me now that I will not be riding back with her.
Rather she is having me ride back with her boyfriend.
A man I hardly know in the least, and his kids.
I do not know at all how to feel about it, but I do know that my anxiety has definitely been high since I had this conversation with my mom...and that is not a good thing.

Last, although not least, is the fact that I was informed when I arrived at work this morning that I may have possibly caught a sickness from a coworker that could be extremely bad for me.
One of my coworkers has been diagnosed with Tuberculosis.
This is a serious sickness that is centered in the lungs.
It has even been known to kill people in it's worst forms.
That part may not seem like a huge deal to you because you are probably thinking that I am young and my immune system is good and can withstand it.
I have to contradict that.
Yes, I am young.
No, my immune system is not good. Not in the least.
My immune system is very weak.
I pretty much catch everything that I am around and it is 10x worse for me than the person who I caught it from.
This has been so ever since I had H1N1 (Swine Flu) in fall of 2009.
I had it 3 different times for 3 weeks each time.
I was completely bed ridden (actually recliner...) because I was in so much pain I couldn't physically move myself.
That was the worst 2 months that I had experienced with a sickness since 5th grade.
And ever since my immune system has been absolutely terrible.
The other thing that makes it easier to catch Tuberculosis is having asthma.
Which I have.
So I have an extremely weak immune system and asthma.
I am a prime candidate.
I am extremely worried that I may have caught it and that I will now have to once again have to fight through a sickness that could kill me.
I cannot afford to have caught this sickness.
I just can't.

You know, this is starting to really get tiring.
This nonstop cycle.
Things start going really well and then all of a sudden...
...the devil has decided once again to throw a gigantic wrench into it all.
It seems like he thinks that my life is the perfect playground.
Just when I start to be happy and to think that things are turning around I get slapped in the face.
I know God has huge plans for me, otherwise the devil would not be working so hard to knock me down onto my face every time I turn around, but it is hard to deal with all of this.
I'm tired of constantly being pushed down onto my face.
Being pushed to the ground just as I am starting to get my footing again.
I wish I knew what God's plan was.
Not so that I would know what to do every step of the way, but rather so that I could be encouraged and feel like going through all of this is going to be worth it in the end.

 I just picked myself up of the ground.
And now I feel like i'm falling again.
The cycle continues...

My Jesus Would Never Be Accepted In My Church

28 June 2012

Before reading farther into this post, please take a minute to watch (or rather listen) to this video.
Take the 6 minutes, play the song and close your eyes and listen.
 Ignore all of the distractions and focus on the lyrics.
I promise you that it is worth it.
(Just in case anyone wants them:  My Jesus by Todd Agnew Lyrics )

Have you ever taken the time to realize who Jesus really is?
Who the Jesus that you serve, worship, and praise truly is?
Have you ever stopped to figure out whether you are truly following Jesus or rather a Jesus that fits your world and your life better?
Which Jesus do you serve?

Do you serve the Jesus that people paint pictures of that is perfect with brown hair and blue eyes?
The Jesus that makes you feel comfortable?
Or do you serve the Jesus that makes any others feel uncomfortable because He isn't picture perfect?
Are you following the Jesus that was beaten, whipped, and hung on the cross?

The first sounds like the Jesus that would fit our worlds her on earth, but the second sounds like the Jesus that I want to serve.
The sad part is that many Churches prefer to stay with the first.
The second is not welcome in most Churches.
There is just one problem with that.
We cannot pick which side of Jesus that we want to follow and serve.
Following and serving Him means doing so wholly.
It means that we follow the comfortable and the uncomfortable.

Ephesians 5:1-2
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
We are supposed to live lives that are honoring to God. 
According to Ephesians, we should be imitating the God we say we serve.
We should be doing it everyday, all day.
Yet how many times do we go about our lives without even taking the time to think about the way that God would want us to go about our lives??
If you stop to take a look around then you would realize that our world is centered on materialism.
Even worse is when you look around and see that the church has become centered on it as well.
We want to have the big building with the fancy windows, elegant molding, and the best furnishings that can be bought on a church budget.
We are so focused on the appearance of the church that it seems as though we forget about the Church itself.
(To clarify, the church- the building and Church- the family of believers)
What would happen if we actually spent time following Jesus' footsteps and caring for the poor, the disabled, and those that can't help themselves?
What if we stepped out and conversed with, even possibly get to know, those that many in the church/Church would refer to as 'sluts', 'prostitutes', or 'hookers'?
What about the alcoholics, the drug addicts, or porn addicts?
What do you think would  happen if we started spending time with those that most consider to be less than themselves??
 It may be uncomfortable for us at first, but the difference we could make if we were to step outside of our comfort zones could be astronomical.
So why are we not doing it?
Why are we idling sitting by?

If we want to make a difference we need to have a desire to be like Jesus.
We have to be willing to be uncomfortable if that is what it takes to follow His will.
Stepping out in faith and following Him.
That is what it takes.

 (I want to go on with this but I do not want to drag it on and risk being redundant. A post in the future based on the same topic is possible though.)

"What The Junk??"

27 June 2012

Hey y'all!!
I can't believe it has been almost a month since I have posted. 
I've been a little busy with work and church stuff.
Hmm, so I guess i'll do a quick recap of what I have been up to as of late.

Work is pretty much the same. Long days of cleaning.
I have climbed into far too many lockers, stoves, refrigerators, and other tight spaces for my liking.
(I'm not quite small enough for some of this...contrary to what many may say.)
I have to say that if it weren't for the people I work with I would absolutely positively hate my job.

Last Monday my mom (and her boyfriend) stopped into town and brought my futon and a tv for me. It is great to finally have furniture. (Not being able to get the remote to work the cable and having to settle for watching David Letterman's show for Gay Pride Week...not so much :/ )
After they left I made sure my bike was locked up and went inside to chill.
I came out the next morning (Tuesday) and my bike was gone.
Chain cut and thrown under the bush.
Not what I wanted to find at 6:30am when I had to be to work in 10mins.
However, yesterday (a week after it happened), Public Safety called and said they had my bike.
The police had found some guy riding it around town.
He picked it up off someone else for $15 for crying out loud.
It's good to have it back though.
Other than that things were not all that eventful until about last Thursday.
 But before getting into that I am going to share a little about the missions team at my church this summer.
North American Mission Board (NAMB) sends out Summer Mission Teams to churches throughout the country every summer. This summer my church, Journey Church, got sent one of these teams. There are 7 summer missionaries here, all college age. 
Two of them go to my school here in Illinois and the rest are from various other colleges and universities.
The 7 summer missionaries that we have here this summer are Andy, Malik, McKenzie, Kenan, Joel, Patrick, and Haley.
Andy and Malik are the two that go to school with me.
Most of the missionaries are from some part of Illinois with the exception of three.
Malik is from Maryland, Patrick is from Mississippi, and Haley is from Tennessee. 
The 7 of them are here at Journey to help out for the summer with various things.
As of late they have been going out into the community and going door to door giving out flyers promoting Journey and sharing what we are all about.

Friendship Festival 2012 (Bourbonnais, IL) Left to right: Andy, McKenzie, Patrick, Malik, Haley, Kenan, and Joel

The above picture is a group picture of the mission team.
This was right before we started walking in the Friendship Festival Parade.
Five of the guys, all except Patrick, had been practicing a bucket drum routine that they performed that morning in church and then while we were walking in the Parade.
They did a great job that morning at church as well as during the Parade!!
While the guys were doing their routine (part of the time walking the other part while riding on the float), we had several members of our church walking and passing out beads to kids and cards with our information to adults.
It was a great afternoon and one to be remembered for sure!!
Friendship Festival 2012- Getting ready to walk! (Me, Justine, and Haley)
 Here is another picture from the Parade. It is a bad one of me but the other two look good!

Ok, so now that I have shared a little bit about the mission team I will share a little bit of the last several days.

For anyone who has read my previous posts (which is probably no one...) then y'all know how bored I have been this summer. 
That has changed in large part because of the group pictured above, as well as other members of Journey Church.

This past week was the Friendship Festival (Wed. June 20th-Sun. June 24th).
I went a few times with this group.
Thursday night I went to the Festival with Andy and Malik.
A lady from church works at Great Clips and she had a booth so we stopped and talked to her for a while. Basically we just chilled there until the guys had band practice for Sunday morning.
We then went to band practice and I got to spend time with the most adorable little girl.
Her name is Cali and she is the daughter of our worship leader Nate and his wife Jill.
She is absolutely adorable and thanks to the guys makes a wide variety of animal noises by request. :)
We then went and spent the evening at Chad and Rachel's.
The next evening (Friday) we had a College Student...get together (??)...
We all met up at the church office and then went to the Festival.

Friendship Festival 2012- Back Row: Joel, Andy, Kenan, Emily (?), TJ, and me. Front Row: Derek, Haley, Malik, and McKenzie.

It was a great night!!
We had a couple of additions to the group before we left the Festival and headed to Steak N' Shake.

Steak N' Shake- Left: Haley, Jessica, Kenan, Andy, Justine, and me. Right: Erin (?), TJ, Joel, Malik, and McKenzie.

As you can see we are a decent sized group of college students (except for Emily...?).
(We have some lovely faces going on in this

Then Saturday I worked overtime. We had to turn over dorms for a camp that was coming for a day or two.
After work I went to the softball game. (Journey has a team and we play against other teams from the area. It is a fun outreach ministry and a great way to get to know each other!)
There was another missions group that came from another church to help out.
(I forgot where they came from.)
So we met them at the offices and helped finish bagging up the flyers for the guys to give out while going door to door.
Then dinner at Aurelio's.
Then the guys had to practice their bucket drumline routine and since I had nothing else to do I went with them and was their audience for the evening.

Sunday was a crazy busy day for all of us!
I had to be at church an hour earlier than usual in order to do nursery.
The guys had all been there for a while before I go there and were practicing their routine again.
After church we all went to Burger King to grab lunch and then headed out to BBCHS to get ready for the Parade!
We walked in the Parade for about an hour or so.
It was such a great way for us to reach out and be a part of the community!!!
(We also found out later on that we won the Director's Choice Award for out float and the church got a plaque and everything!!!)
After a crazy time of destroying the float and taking all the staples out of the trailer (which was graciously loaned to us for the afternoon from Jessica!!), we all headed back to Chad and Rachel's.
Little did we all know there was someone moving in next door.
We offered to help them finish moving their things in and they accepted.
So for the next hour or so the guys and I helped them unload their large moving truck.
We all pushed ourselves and I definitely went above and beyond my usual.
As we were helping them we got to talking to them and sharing about Journey and the missions team and everything.
When we got done we got a chance to introduce Mark and his family to Chad (Journey's pastor) and Rachel. We got a chance to share more about Journey and invite them to church.
It was such a great witnessing opportunity!! 
Who knew?!

We were all crazy tired and crashed in Chad and Rachel's living room for the rest of the evening.
Chad grilled up some hot dogs and sausage for dinner.
We all ended up watching The Ringer that evening.
(Joel can do a crazy good impression of one of the characters!!)

Overall the last several days have been crazy busy but I loved it!!

I also have to say that I think that God definitely used this past week to show me some things.
After all of it I feel like I am most definitely right at the place where God wants me to be for the summer, even if it is different to be here instead of at home.
God is doing big things in my life through Journey and through the mission team.
I could not have asked for a better summer.
God is showing me that sometimes the simplest of gestures can be the strongest witnessing opportunities that we can get.
Case in point when talking about helping Mark and his family move in.
How could we know that we would have that opportunity Sunday afternoon??
Yeah, we may have all been pushed beyond our limits both physically and in terms of our comfort zone, but look at how God used it!!!
His plan is far greater than ours and who knows what would have happened if we hadn't stepped out and offered to help them move all of their things into their house!
And I have to say personally that God has provided me an incredible group of friends for the summer, and hopefully longer, even when I didn't think I would meet anyone this summer.
I was not planning on all of this, but He is providing in more ways than I could have ever imagined!
These guys have been going out of their way to be chivalrous and to show that there are still guys out there who take it seriously and act on it.
I am not used to it at all and therefore it is weird for me, but at the same time it is incredible to be exposed to guys who want to go that extra step and open the car door, let me sit in the front seat, serve my food for me, or carry something for me (even when i'm obstinate about
I was not expecting God to provide that kind of an example for me this summer, but I appreciate it.

(However, these guys are gonna have me all kinds of spoiled by the end of the summer!!)

(And if you guys read this...Thank you for being an example of what true gentlemen should act like! It is greatly appreciated even if I nag you about it!! I have never seen guys treat girls/women with the respect that you all do. You're all pretty amazing guys and i'm lucky to know you all!!)

Well, there ya have it!
A quick (sorta....) recap of my life as of late!
There is much more I could share but I will leave it at that.

God keeps surprising me daily and I am excited to see what is going to happen in the coming weeks and months of the summer!!! :)

***All pictures in this post are courtesy of the lovely Haley Richards, member of the NAMB Summer Mission Team***

God works in amazing ways!!

05 June 2012

Hm, life seems like a crazy whirlwind right now.
The summer has gone by so fast already, yet at the same time it seems to be going so slow.
I still have a hard time believing that it is already June.
Absolute craziness if you ask me.

Work is just work.
I can't say that cleaning for eight hours Monday through Friday is exciting.
But the people I work with definitely make those eight hours quite entertaining for me.
I would not like going to work if it were not for those on my team.
I have two amazing ladies for team leaders, Susie and Dawn :)
And regularly the students on the team are Ethan, Robensky, Karen, and I.
However, we have had a few additions the last week or two, such as Emily, Adrian, and Geoff.
Getting to work with various people has definitely been a learning experience.
I have also enjoyed getting to know everyone.
It amazes me how varied all of our personalities are.
I am just curious to see what God may have planned this summer because I have not doubt that those of us who are working this summer are not here by coincidence. 
We are all here for a reason and God knows what those reasons are.

I also feel like God has definitely brought me into a church that is more than willing to welcome me into their groups and surround me this summer.
I am highly grateful for all of the wonderful people at church that God has put in my life.
I am truly excited to see what He has planned this summer with my involvement in my church.
I have no doubt it will be amazing!!
His plans tend to be just that :)

What does it mean to be fearless??

03 June 2012

To many of us to be fearless means that we are not afraid of anything.
We're not afraid of spiders, storms, flying, the dark, public speaking, and many other things.
But I want to change up the question a bit.

What does it mean to be fearless in living out your faith?

That changes things a bit.
Many of us may not even take a minute out of our lives to think about what it truly means to live out a faith and be fearless while doing so.
It doesn't mean we can't be afraid of the things I mentioned above, but rather that we are not afraid of standing up for the faith we believe in. It means that we should not be afraid of the outcomes
that we may face because of our faith. We cannot let ourselves be afraid of what others think
or might say about us because of our faith. We should not be afraid of being persecuted
for our faith or being called out because of it. 
Being afraid to share our faith and to live it out in our day to day lives.

People in other countries are being beaten, burned to death, shot, murdered, imprisoned, and being persecuted in many other ways because of their faith and their willingness to live it out daily.
These people do not denounce their faith or try to hide it in order to make their lives easier.
They do not try to pretend that they do not believe to protect themselves.
These people are living out their faith fearlessly.

What are we doing?
How are we living out our faith fearlessly?
Are we even challenged to live it out fearlessly in our society?

We are extremely lucky to live in the United States because we have the option to worship freely in public arenas, public schools, even public parks.
We are not restricted to underground churches that constantly have to change location.
We do not have to worry about our church buildings being raided.
We do not have to worry about law enforcement coming into our place of worship and arresting us.
We are free to live out our faith in every arena that we are in.
Yet for some reason we do not.
We do not truly live out our faith fearlessly.

We have gotten so comfortable in our little churches and going to services and doing our mission trips to various geographic ares.
We have let ourselves settle into routine.
We are comfortable.

I think it is time we made ourselves uncomfortable.
We need to step outside of our boxes and outside of our comfort zones.
Some of the most amazing opportunities to share our faith is in those moments where we are uncomfortable and outside of our little bubbles.
If God wanted this life to be easy and comfortable He would have made it that way.
But I do not think that He wanted this life to be easy.
What would be the point of it all if life was easy?

Life is hard but that is the beauty of it.
And living out our faith fearlessly is not easy.
It is not going to be easy.
But God wants us to do it anyways.
We need to be fearless in our faith so that we can advance His kingdom, so we can bring many more people to Him.
We have a mission and being fearless in our faith is the way we will succeed.
We can do all things through Him who gives us strength.
God will empower us if we have the desire.
It is time to live fearlessly.

God will give me the strength I need!!

02 June 2012

It's been a while since I have been able to post...(actually only like a week and a half...ish...)
There is so much going on my life at the moment and I feel like the devil is trying his hardest to push me over the edge, to push me to my limits. I feel like he is trying to tear me apart, especially on the inside. 

Everything with my parents divorce is coming at me fast. Financial issues, psychological issues and what I would call manipulation, emotional stress, and just stress in general.
I feel like the devil is using this situation to his advantage.
I constantly feel like this situation is defeating me. It is seemingly overwhelming and having a disastrous effect on my life. It is affecting everything from family relationships to my life 
here in Illinois with college and everything that goes with that.
I feel stuck and like I cannot do this college thing. 
Because of financial issues that have been brought up by this divorce. 
My mom cannot afford to pay for the bill and I do not have the money to do so either. 
Tax money was supposed to pay for the rest of my bill from this past year, but due to my 'father' not splitting the money with my mom like he is supposed to, my mom cannot pay the bill. 
This is leaving me to pay the bill with the money that I am working for this summer by working full time at my college all summer in the custodial department. 
I would not say that this is the ideal situation. For me or my mom.

The worst part of the whole thing is that I feel like the devil is using this to make me feel like I am failing and like I cannot get beyond this.
And I honestly would like nothing better than to get beyond this situation.

God provided the money for me to even be here to begin with, so I am not questioning whether or not I am supposed to be here. (Not yet anyways...)
Yet I have this feeling that the financial side of this whole college thing is not going to pan out for a second year and that scares me.
I do not want to leave Olivet. Not in the least.
Yet I feel like I am continuously at the edge of not being able to return this fall.

I know all of these negative feelings and thoughts are from the devil himself, as God would not put such thoughts in my head, but for some reason they seem like the truth. 
I need to let go and let God.
I cannot let the devil win over my thoughts and feelings.
I can do this with the help of the Almighty!

This situation is not me, but how I react to and deal with it will define part of who I am.
I cannot let the devil have any part in my reaction to the situation 
or how I handle the situation.
The devil will not win.
God will!!
God has!!

Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength!"

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